The Bench of Comparison is Not Where You Belong

aaron-birch-230237Have you ever imagined what God might want to do with you? I have, but struggled believing He would want to. After all, it’s me. The girl that rebelled against God, sinned to hurt Him, put my fist up to Him in anger, and ran hard to create distance between us. Therefore, part of my past with God caused me to wonder if He would ever want to use me for His glory.

My insecurities often caused me to stumble my way to the bench at the sidelines, watching God do with others what I dreamed He might do with me.

Are you familiar with the bench?

We compare ourselves with others when we are not in the game. We ask ourselves:

Why does she have the courage to do what she does and I don’t?

Why does God bless her and not me?

Why are doors of opportunity opening for her and not me?

Why does she hear from God so clearly and I can barely hear Him?

The enemy harasses us by leading us to think God is partial to others. But, God’s word tells us that He does not show favoritism. (Romans 2:11 CSB)

The following truth rings true for you and me today:

“But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.” (1Peter 2:9-10 MSG)

Read that last truth again and let it soak in for a moment.

God did not save us from darkness for us to keep silent on the bench! We are His instruments meant to be used to tell others about Him and what He has done in our lives.

God desires to do much with us. With you! Yes, He wants our obedience, and yes, it will take faith that may make us uncomfortable, but we can trust God will empower us to accomplish His work. He is aware of our insecurities and wants us to be secure in Him.

Trusting that God can do in us what we cannot in ourselves causes us to stand up and dust ourselves off.

As His daughters, He will perform His purposed plan in us when we are fully surrendered to Him.

He then whispers to His daughter’s heart:

  • With you, I will make My name known.
  • With you, I will show My glory.
  • With you, I will set captives free.
  • With you, I will speak truths over the lies.
  • With you, I will be exalted.
  • With you, I will demonstrate that nothing is impossible with Me.

Friend, God wants to do with you what you cannot do on your own. He has rigged it so you would be dependent on Him to accomplish the dreams He seeded in your heart.

Sure, we will fall short from time to time in our walk with Him. But He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. (1 John 1:9) He is faithful when we are not faithful. (2 Timothy 2:13)

When we stumble let’s not reach for the bench on the sidelines pretending we need a time out from the game or that we deserve to be there. Let’s instead stumble into His arms renewing our strength; so, we may soar on wings like eagles; running and not becoming weary, not growing faint as we walk, Isaiah 40:31.

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Trusting The Lord To Have His Way Is Hard

amelia-bartlett-Country Rd“Have Your way Lord,” were the words I ended my prayer with as I rocked in my white rocking chair under the shade of my front porch. I was struggling with a direction God was leading me to take. I too often wrestle with God’s ways, and it is easy for me to question Him when the path He has for me seems difficult. Saying those four words at the end of my conversation with Him takes trusting Him.

Inner peace reigns within my soul when I willingly yield to His ways though.

It’s a serenity only the Peace-Giver can give.

We struggle with holding onto such serenity because the distractions that set us off track cause us to become frustrated, tired, and lose focus.

Maybe you try to have a quiet time with the Lord and your kids wake up at unpredicted times of the morning or, their naps are cut short.

Maybe you are on track with having God’s perspective at top of mind, and then a family member, friend, or co-worker’s actions rattle you. Your flesh takes over with a worldly perspective.

Maybe you’re headed to the doctor with a loved one with great confidence in the Lord to provide good news. As you listen to the prognosis, they are told that their quality of life will be changed from now on, and there is no hope in sight that things will get any better.

Alone time with the Lord, having God’s perspective, and confidence in Him offers inner peace. But let’s be honest and admit it is not easy to hold onto such serenity.

It takes intentionality to activate and maintain the peace already within us.

“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” (John 14:27 NASB)

As we experience the downs of life we must get back up again. We must refocus on what is true. We must strive to seek peace.

We must because this world will always try to detour our focus away from God and onto the struggle.

Knowing this means that we must willfully practice the truth we know.

We know that prayer is the instrument that draws us near to God. Having conversations with Him connect us to His heart. We learn to trust Him, love Him, and know Him better. He uses our prayers to exchange chaos for peace.

Sunflowers

Prayer=Peace

The aches that anxiety, fear, and worry create within us take root when we doubt God’s goodness, lose trust in Him, or rely on our own strength. Our troubles and concerns may not go away when we pray, but God has assured us that we can have peace as we trust Him to have His way.

Though His ways are not our ways and our ways are not His ways, God knows what He is doing, and He knows why He is doing it, Isaiah 55:8-9.

I admit that I don’t always understand His ways. It even frustrates me and grieves me at times. But when it is all said and done, I can trust that God is still good. I can trust that He knows best. I can have faith in a faithful God.

I know that when I pray with all my heart, trust Him for His promises, and praise Him for who He is, the peace He has already given me becomes prominent. So, with little hesitation I pray, “Have Your way Lord.”

Friend, be intentional and let that be your testimony as well.

Partially Used

Photo by Léa Dubedout on Unsplash
My sisters and two nieces recently visited me from out of State. It was like good medicine to my soul in so many ways. We woke up early sipping coffee, sharing insights from our past, and what God has done in the present. We stayed up late reflecting on pictures from new memories made during the day’s adventures. Laughter and joy spread throughout the house as we got silly from fatigue.

The day to pack for departure came too soon. As I searched behind them for anything forgotten I noticed a partially used bottle of shampoo left in the shower. I mentioned it a few times in hopes they would not forget it. However, when they left it was still there. As I examined the red bottle it became familiar to me. It dawned on me that it had been in my shower for several months untouched.

I had purchased another shampoo that I felt would better suit my needs rather than finishing the bottle I had. Over time I became blind to the fact it was still sitting there, partially used.

Sometimes we become blind to the fact God is right beside us, partially used.

We use Him in the moment of need, and become complacent that He is there.

We become distracted with something or someone else causing our hearts to drift from God.

We receive His peace, provision, or protection forfeiting glory due Him because our self-sufficiency kicks in.

God promises to never leave us nor forsake us and yet that is the very thing we do to Him. God may be on our lips but far from our mind, Jeremiah 12:2b.

Friend, the Lord desires us to understand and know Him; To know that He is the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, and He delights in these things, Jeremiah 9:24b.

He designed it so that when we continually abide or remain in Him He will bless us. Consider the following:

Remain in me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me. If anyone does not remain in me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:4-8 CSB)

Perhaps you struggle to remain in a consistent relationship with God. I believe most of us are guilty of that from time to time.

Maybe you have the best intentions to do better at acknowledging, praising, and fellowshipping with Him on a regular basis. You may even be successful for a week or two and then your attention is onto something or someone else. When you do you miss out on the abundant life God desires to grant you, John 10:10.

Be encouraged in knowing God is a patient God, 2 Peter 3:9! I am so thankful He is! Aren’t you?

Let’s not become defeated by our lack of commitment, but instead, strive for victory by having our hearts and minds fixed on Him. Acknowledge Him in all our ways by inviting God in the details of life. The more we practice inviting Him in the more consistent we become in our fellowship with Him. Pray for God to help you Know Him more. I dare you to pray that every morning you wake up! I do and He is faithful to open my eyes to see and know Him better.

He used a shampoo bottle to get my attention. What is He using to get your attention? Don’t ignore it! Examine it and ask God to open your eyes to what you are missing.

 

 

 

 

Let God’s Voice Be Louder Than Your Fears

 Woman and rain shower

Have you ever felt lost while traveling? You call out for help, but no one answers. My husband had military orders to move to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and we decided to save money by moving ourselves. He drove the U-Haul truck full of our meager belongings, and I followed in our car. We were all set to communicate freely via the CB radio and use an atlas to navigate. This was before cell phones, y’all! I knew if I could keep the truck in my line of sight, I would be okay. Before we would approach a turn, Chris’ voice would come over the CB radio giving me a heads up. I was comfortable following his lead, trusting he knew the path we needed to take.

It wasn’t until nightfall my comfort turned into intense distress. The heavy traffic caused us to separate, and I could no longer see the truck. I called Chris’ name over the CB radio several times. Panic gripped my heart when I did not hear a response. I had no idea where I was, the traffic was pressing in on me, and I started crying hysterically. My fears of the unknown jammed my logical thinking, and I became a wreck.

Have you ever felt alone in a situation and panic set in?

Have you ever cried out for help and felt like no one could hear you? It’s possible this is something only I have struggled with, right?

When we allow fear to grip us, we tend to react illogically. Analyzing what the outcome could be, we can get overwhelmed and let negativity sidetrack us. The noise we create in our panicked mind blocks us from hearing anything other than our inner voice. This can leave us feeling unheard, alone, and lost.

But here’s the good news: God’s word can comfort us and bring us to a logical state of mind:

  • Be mindful God hears us.

 In my distress, I called upon the Lord, and cried to my God for help;             He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry for help before Him came into His ears. (Psalms 18:6)

  • He calls us to be still.

Be still and know that I am God. (Psalms 46:10)

  • He alone is our calm.

When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, your consolations delight my soul. (Psalms 94:19)

  • He is always before us and will never leave us.

The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. (Deuteronomy 31:8)

I am a little embarrassed to admit, but that night on the dark highway, when I was gripped by fear, I was not calmly calling out for help-I was screaming! I was screaming so much so that I had to force myself to breathe before I passed out. It was at that moment I heard a voice.  It was Chris calling my name, “Jodi I hear you. You are okay. Please calm down.”

He then proceeded to navigate me to an exit where we reunited. I was so busy crying out for help I did not stop long enough to hear his response. Sometimes we do that when we are crying out to God and wonder why He has not responded. Perhaps during our crisis, if we instead paused long enough to listen for God’s response, calm and peace will fill our hearts and minds.

Let God’s voice be louder than your fears and louder than your inner voice. What He has to say will help you get back on course.

If you are like me and lose sight of God from time to time, just remember He is right there beside you. He is willing to respond to your cry, quiet you with His love, and navigate you to a place where you can become still and know He is God.

He’s got the wheel, and He’s got you, friend!

 

 

 

White Puff Balls And The Gospel

Young Woman blowing dandelion

I was honored to write this for Contagious Joy Ministries.

Wildflowers and weeds occupied the large lot next to the home where I grew up. I loved wandering around the turf searching for treasures. I especially liked to find dandelions. Their yellow petals transform into a white puff ball called a seed head. Finding my treasure, I would bend down, carefully breaking the stem without causing the ball to fall apart. While holding my breath, I held it close to my chest making a wish. Then, I would bring it up to my mouth and blow it as hard as I could. The white puff ball exploded in every direction as if carrying the message of my wish to a magical place.

As I recalled this childhood memory, I recognized that as believers in Christ Jesus, we are much like the white puff ball of the dandelion. To continue reading click here.

This was first published at http://www.ContagiousJoy4Him.com

 

Confessions From A Wife Of A Snoring Husband

 

Couple hand together touch with love vintage filter tone.

Sometimes a girl just cannot get a peaceful night’s sleep! The nights with greatest promise are often interrupted by the subtle beginning of a “snore fest.” My husband, Chris, begins like a gentle house cat but often ends up like a lion’s thundering roar! Tossing right and left while pressing the pillow over my head cannot muffle his deep sleep symphony. The longer I listen the more frustrated I get. I have been known to kick him (gently of course) in hopes of ushering in some ever-elusive silence; however, it usually leads to another performance. Since putting my pillow over his face is still illegal in every state and territory, I’m left praying for peace, endurance, love, patience, and self-control.

Can you relate? Are there things about your spouse that drive you a little crazy? Habits that resonate like fingers on a chalkboard? Everyone does! But sometimes life can bring us to a place of fresh perspective. With one major life event, my disdain was transformed to appreciation.

A few years ago, I found myself sitting next to his bed in the ICU. I never imagined my 42-year-old husband would have open heart surgery–but there we were. Seeing him labor for each breath as he worked off of the ventilator, I prayed to hear him snore beside me in bed once again. (No kidding… I really prayed this.)

Everything had changed, and nothing had changed…except my perspective.

During those laboring moments of silently waiting for updates from the doctors, I pondered things what I had taken for granted concerning Chris. Things like him making my breakfast each morning, arriving home safely each night for dinner, flirting with me in the kitchen as I cook, making me laugh with his witty charm, listening to me rant about my day, and yes, his snoring, too. All of that was now a heartbeat from being stripped away from my life. The reality that “we are not promised tomorrow” sinks in like never before.

What might you be taking for granted?

  • Assuming that you have tomorrow to make things right with your friend?
  • Making that much-needed phone call to a loved one?
  • Sharing the gospel with someone God places in your path?

Scripture offers great wisdom concerning our tomorrows:

Don’t brag about tomorrow,
since you don’t know what the day will bring. Proverbs 27:1 NLT

Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. James 4:14

It is a difficult but necessary realization that tomorrow is not a promise for us. When we become comfortable in the assumption that there will always be a tomorrow, we often miss the value of our moments with family, friends, or loved ones.

In the ICU that day, once the ventilator was removed and we could speak, he soon fell asleep. Sitting next to Chris with a sense of relief, I heard it; A subtle snore! It was music to my ears; A melody I vowed to never take for granted or become aggravated with again. It reminded me he was alive. It meant he was breathing. (Okay, breathing loudly). It simply testified to another day of life together with him. Tears of gratitude streamed down my face.

What aggravation do you need to re-evaluate? Maybe it should become something for which you are thankful.

  • Clothes being left on the floor?
  • Lunch boxes needing to be prepared?
  • Last minute school projects?
  • Empty milk cartons left in the fridge?

Perspective. Often times it comes down to that. I’d love to say that I sleep peacefully every night and snoring is a faint memory, but I still find myself with a pillow over my own head. Now though, I consider that this mild interruption is a reminder of life and all the good that it brings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Secret Walls That Limit Our Faith

Woman praying alone

Does your faith have secret walls?  Hidden limitations you’ve built around your life? For years, I refused to go on a mission trip overseas. I reasoned that God could send someone else, and that it was best for my children if I didn’t go. To be honest, I wanted to go but I was trapped by my fears.  My fears formed a fortified wall around my faith allowing me to go only so far with God. When I considered what was on the other side of the wall, I imagined horrible outcomes: Sickness, not being allowed back in country, orphaning my children, or not being with them if they needed me. The enemy had me right where he wanted me. Faithless. Ashamed. Controlled. Ineffective.

I imagine you have your own reasoning for your faith walls.

Maybe God has prompted you to witness to someone, but you felt inadequate, and decided to wait for another day.

Maybe God wants you to begin a new ministry, but you are insecure about your ability and decide to bury the dream.

Maybe someone you know suffers from a chronic illness, and because you haven’t seen improvement you doubt healing and your prayers have tapered off.

Maybe you have faith that God loves, forgives, or has plans for everyone else, but cannot believe those truths for yourself.

It is those feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, doubt, and a lack of self-worth that limit our faith.

God is not the creator of those limits. We are.

God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7) However, we choose to thwart that power and discipline when we allow our flesh to override God’s desires for us. Our hope and belief can waver when things seem impossible. The enemy plants the lie and waters it with doubt: Will God really make good on His promises to me?

Consider the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11. This is an historic account of real men and women who struggled with their faith, but chose to knock down their walls of inadequacy, insecurity, doubt, and fear. When they did, God showed up in huge ways and made good on His promises!

I remember the day God broke down the fortified wall that had kept me from traveling on mission. God was prompting my heart to travel to South Asia with my husband, leaving my boys behind. As I was praying and asking God to help me take this step of faith, He simply stilled me with His love and spoke into my soul:

Jodi, you will never receive the abundance of life I have designed specifically for you if you continue to live in fear. I have plans to use you for My Kingdom. You may have given birth to your children but I created them and I love them more than you could ever dream! You can trust Me with them. Do you trust Me? Yes Lord, I trust You! I trust You for what I cannot see on the other side of my wall.

I went and I was effective! I was no longer faithless or controlled by the enemy’s lies.  But, I must be honest and tell you I prayed A LOT. However, the more I prayed, the more He strengthened my faith in His faithfulness. Peace ruled instead of fear. There was freedom on the other side of my faith wall. The enemy no longer had me where he wanted me. Instead, God had me right where He wanted me – trusting in Him.

Do you fear what’s on the other side of your wall? You don’t have to! There’s really nothing to fear when you trust God for the outcome. He will cause all things to work together for good if we let Him.

Secret walls limit our faith. Ask God to help you push down your wall so your faith can be without borders. It’s the life you were purposed to live … LIVE IT!

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1